My biggest homeschooling mistake

Written by contributor Hillary Boucher

When I think about homeschooling I usually focus on my children. What are their needs? What makes them tick? What peeks their interest?

What would support their growth and build skills and confidence?

I usually don’t spend much time thinking about myself, my relationship to homeschooling and the emotions that homeschooling brings up for me. And that’s a mistake.

It feels like we have so much to teach our children. There are letters and language, mythology and history, geography and maps. There are stars to chart, complex equations to solve and don’t forget the table of periodic elements.

Life is serious, the world is competitive and we want our kids to live up to their full potential. They are amazing after all.

Homeschooling has asked me to grow exponentially and on many different levels. Similar to (and not really different from) parenting, this journey humbles me. Just when you think you have figured something out the proverbial rug is pulled out from under your feet.

Homeschooling asks a lot of me. It asks me to be better organized and incredibly compassionate, patient and creative. It asks me to do these things on days when I’m tired or stressed.

If the kids would just do everything I asked with sweet smiles on their faces life would be oh so easy! 😉

Much of the time the way they learn doesn’t line up with how I would prefer to do things. I’m worried about reading and they are engrossed in building with k’nex. It’s all learning I tell myself and learning doesn’t happen linearly.

When I was a student in Catholic school we sat in rows and we started with chapter one and without a doubt we moved to chapter two. There was no variance.

But at home sometimes chapter one doesn’t make sense or it’s just not interesting. And chapter 17 on ancient Greece civilization is more engaging because we just read Percy Jackson and the Olympians. That’s the beauty of homeschooling — we are able to follow our children’s interests and truly tailor their learning journey so that it suits them.

It would be easier for me if we started at the beginning, moved through the middle and arrived at the expected ending. It would make me more comfortable and it would be easier to plan, measure and report.

It would be easier if he liked doing workbooks. And then I could say, “Look he’s learning math! He loves his math workbooks.” But he doesn’t. In fact if he even catches a whiff of us trying to teach him something he shuts down.

But if he’s engaged and doing things he loves it’s amazing to watch the learning unfold, but that kind of learning can’t be planned and it doesn’t fit into state required paperwork. It is non-linear, overlapping and always evolving. It doesn’t tie up neatly in a bow.

And herein lies my biggest homeschooling mistake. I mistakenly thought I would somehow be exempt from the growth and learning that I expected from them. I thought that somehow because I was the parent or the “teacher” that I would hold the wisdom and that would make my role easier.

I expected them to have to figure it out, stretch and learn. I didn’t realize how closely my growth was connected to theirs.

My mistake was thinking that by giving my kids the freedom to learn on their own timeline and in their own way, it would be easy or neatly packaged in a way that satisfied my desire to feel in control and successful as a homeschooling parent.

But homeschooling is no different than parenting. You are in partnership with your child and you take turns leading and following, teaching and learning. Remembering that I am every bit a student on this journey is a big piece of humble of pie.

What is your biggest homeschooling mistake?

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About Hillary

Hillary feels lucky to be able to work full-time from home and shares the homeschooling responsibilities with her partner. Together, with a little creativity, a full schedule and a lot of love, they facilitate the education of their three adorable, and sometimes very loud, children.


  1. This really hits home for me – I have a rough-and-tumble boy who’s apparently not going to do things “by the books.” 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement, and the challenge.
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  2. Wow thanks so much for the encouragement and assurance that I am not alone in my feelings and thoughts and the issues that I face on a daily basis. My biggest home-schooling mistake would be trying to bring ‘school’ home. Oh boy was that a leaning curve! Timetables, formal book work etc etc. My two oldest coped reasonably well but my third son balked at this idea. He has only just now (at seven) realised that maybe reading and doing Math could be somewhat interesting! Up until now its been lego, drawing and biking riding. This is my second year of homeschooling and some days I feel like this it just too hard, but I wouldn’t change it for the world when I see the learning that takes place in the ‘informal’ and in play. It excites me. Thanks again for sharing your heart!
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  3. I told someone just recently, that just handing them the books and moving from one page to the next would be easier, I really want to create a learning environment that is more natural. However, it requires MUCH more work on my part. And it’s frankly a little scary sometime.

    I’m just starting out and I feel my growth has already been amazing. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.
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  4. “It is non-linear, overlapping and always evolving. It doesn’t tie up neatly in a bow.” My daughter is just shy of three so I’m not yet homeschooling but I know my personality well enough to realize I will have to fight against a desire to linear, textbook learning. I love reading those ahead of me on the parenting and homeschooling journey so I can learn before I get there.
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  5. It is hard to fight the way we were raised — I was a public school girl, too, and loved it. But once we give in to the more natural learning that is possible at home, what a wonderful way of life it makes possible!
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  6. I agree. Homeschooling asks an awful lot of the mother. I wrote my book because most of the homeschooling books give you a formula, and I wanted to talk about the mother’s journey in it all. It’s a wonderful learning process for all of us, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing!‘s latest post: Rhythm of a Year: Fall

  7. Terrific post. I am still amazed at the amount of learning and growing I have done since we began homeschooling. It is such a balancing act, respecting yourself and giving your all – and I love your comparison of growing as a parent to growing as a homeschooling family. There is a learning curve, a humbling of self, and great rewards.
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  8. Thank you! I needed this article SO very much! I have such an issue with “order” in everything. That quality doesn’t not fit in with homeschooling my darlings. It gets hard as your children get older.

  9. It’s been a challenge to get out of the way of my boys ideas and just support them in acting on them. The support they need is sometimes more than I want or feel like investing at any given time, but I’ve been trying to work on getting past that and just doing.

  10. So glad to hear this resonated with you. In all honesty, it feels good to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way sometimes.
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  11. I liked this post. It was very obvious from the beginning of my parent and homeschooling journey that my kids were not going to ‘go by the book’! Not the baby books, parenting books or many ‘schooling’ methods.

    It is such a gift to your children to watch and learn what they want and need and how they learn. The goal for me is to match that up – not have them match up to some preconceived notion of how they were ‘supposed’ to learn.

  12. Hillary, I liked this so much. I am awed by the homeschooling journey. How non-linear and amazing and not like I thought it’d be it is. There are so many moments of WTF am I doing? followed by moments of how gorgeously in the groove everything feels.
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  13. A great post and a great reminder that this is a journey for all of the family and it’s a process that we’re focusing on, not a product (i.e. a child who “knows all s/he’s supposed to know”). I really want to keep my children’s love of learning alive.

    As unschoolers, I love how much freedom we have to do things the kids want to do when they want to do it AND it’s amazing, when I’m conscious enough, to see how my projections interfere with that. It’s been an interesting inner journey for me to see how my wishes/desires/needs get mixed in with how and what the kids learn. How, when I’m tired or feel I need to get stuff done, that I fall more into a mode of wanting them to do workbooks or read what I want them to read or learn math, etc., etc.

    Thank goodness for the support of communities like this one at Simple Homeschool that remind me of what I really want for my kids and that there are plenty of others out there who want the same thing!

  14. i forget about me. all the time. thank you for the reminder that i count, too!
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  15. Thank you for you honesty in telling your personal journey. I’m in my first year of homeschooling…my daughter is 7 and has been in a montessori environment since three. I find it a daily challenge to let-go of the sense of ‘education’ as I knew it (which in current times is something I don’t agree with….public school structure,) and embrace the formula of education that I so deeply believe in – that learning is a process, and natural, and infinite, and beautiful. Balancing the need for some ‘tangible’ example of how I’m succeeding in teaching her (because I feel like I need to prove to someone, somewhere that I’m qualified and able,) with trusting that I am completely capable, and at this is indeed a wonderful decisions we’ve made as a family. Thank you, THANK YOU!
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  16. My husband and I have been homeschooling our son (8) since he was 6. This is our first year with a curriculum (one we came up with based on the Classical model a la “The Well-Trained Mind). We are almost a month into this year and pretty much on target with where we want to be, but it looks like this week’s material will run into next week which will push things out of whack a bit … at least with how it fits on the calendar. I’ve learned to go with it and even to be excited about changing things up a bit from the schedule. I talk to my son about what I expect of him and sometimes I get resistance and sometimes I don’t. He doesn’t like to do school/learning when it is named as such, but he does it anyway. It’s an ongoing conversation with him. We adapt to the day, to our moods, to how we are feeling … not something that can be done in public school. I talk to him ahead of time about what the next day’s expectations are so he can internalize what he needs to do.
    Sometimes I wonder about my effectiveness as his teacher, but then again, I also wonder about my effectiveness as his mother. Some days I fail miserably and some days I am the best mother/teacher ever and really proud of myself. It’s a mixed bag.
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  17. This was so good to read right as I am in the midst of coming to this conclusion too. We just started homeschool for the first time and we’re 4 weeks in and it seems like everything is getting dumped up-side-down and needing to be re-vamped to line up with her interests and not just what’s in our curriculum books! thank you!

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